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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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High Blood Pressure and Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

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Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) have similar effects as ACE inhibitors, another type of blood pressure drug, but work by a different mechanism. These drugs block the effect of angiotensin II, a chemical that narrows blood vessels. By doing so, they help widen blood vessels to allow blood to flow more easily, which lowers blood pressure. ARBs are generally prescribed for people who cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors.

Examples of ARBs include:

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Your doctor says you need to make some changes in your life, especially with your diet and exercise. Perhaps you're wondering: Will it really make a difference? Do you really need to make those changes if you're taking medicine for your heart? The answer is yes. Your lifestyle does matter -- a lot.

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What Are Some of the Side Effects?

Some of the side effects of taking ARBs include:

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness upon rising, This side effect may be strongest after the first dose, especially if you have been taking a diuretic (water pill). Contact your doctor if these symptoms are persistent or severe.
  • Physical problems.Diarrhea, muscle cramps or weakness, back or leg pain, insomnia (difficulty sleeping), irregular heartbeat, or fast or slow heartbeat, sinusitis or upper respiratory infection. Contact your doctor if these symptoms are persistent or severe.
  • Confusion. Contact your doctor right away.
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea. If you become sick with severe vomiting or diarrhea you may become dehydrated, which can lead to low blood pressure. Contact your doctor.
  • Abnormalities in blood chemistry laboratory tests.
  • Cough, though less commonly than with ACE inhibitors.

Also contact your doctor if you have any other symptoms that cause concern.

Guidelines for taking ARBs

  • ARBs can be taken on an empty or full stomach. Follow the label directions on how often to take this medication. The number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and how long you need to take the medication will depend on the type of ARB prescribed, as well as your condition. Note: It may take many weeks for you to feel the full effects of the medication.
  • While taking this medication, have your blood pressure and kidney function checked regularly, as recommended by your doctor.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on October 12, 2015
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